When you’re young, you’re told to be like the Wheaties box star, the MVP, the American hero. But sometime later, perhaps in your early teens, a different, darker shade of athletic superstardom creeps into your mind. The punks and the bad boys, the uncoachable hotheads, the men who mirror your own angst and inner rebellion. You are 16 years old and you are completely captivated by the god of skiing Bode Miller, you miss the podium but you celebrate. Sphinx Zinedine Zidane, inexplicably headbutting an Italian defender in the final move of his career. The mule John Daly, leaving with a Marlboro in his mouth. Since there have been sports, there have been athletes who have the audacity to defy convention. Those who only played by rules they wrote for themselves. And in doing so, they updated more than the game, they changed the culture. For management, stewards, coaches and agents, these are often nightmares. But for the fans, they are like gods, even when playing like devils. They remain the champions of the people. And the most human heroes of all.
If you saw it live, you can still imagine it all these years later: the sudden lowering of the shoulder and the forward thrust, the terse exchange with the referee after the red card , the ignominious exit from the field in front of the waiting trophy. Zinedine Zidane’s shocking header on Marco Materazzi in the dying minutes of the 2006 World Cup final – Italy beat Zidane’s French side on penalties – marked the end of a career defined as much by the sublime as the despicable. Eight years earlier, Zidane, the son of Algerian immigrants, had tasted World Cup glory, leading a multiracial French side to victory over Brazil. “With a World Cup, he united a fractured nation” men in blazers co-host Roger Bennett said GQ. “His two headers in the 1998 final broke the myth of Brazilian invincibility and silenced the French right wing. And then he used another World Cup to destroy all that largesse. It remains for us to try to reconcile the moments of astonishing art with those of deplorable rage. The man capable of producing a superb left-footed volley to win the 2002 Champions League also racked up 14 career red cards, including one for another header, in 2000, from Hamburg player Jochen Kientz – a haunting foreshadowing of his last moments on the pitch. .—Eric Wills
Philadelphia Cream. Hawks versus Sixers. Game 1 of the second round of the 2021 NBA playoffs. Atlanta’s Trae Young had closed Madison Square Garden just days before, and now, as Hawks fans cheered each of his buckets as if the kidnapping were imminent, the message was clear: Trae was the most delicious new villain in the league, and it was his coming out party. . He plays like he was born to be bad: the tousled hair, the three “fuck off” logos, even the twerking of his limbs, the thrill of contorting his body to draw the nastiest fouls on his opponents. . Philadelphia is supposed to be the city of underdogs, and here comes Knuckles the nutmeg Echidna of grown men with crossovers, daring someone to save him in the cheap seats. There’s something beautiful about seeing an outlaw get away with their crimes. And in the NBA, there’s no bolder anti-hero right now than Trae Young. If this is the future of gaming, go for it.—Tyler R. Tynes